reviews

  • “Sense and Sensibility”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art

    Despite Minimalism's lingering status as the apotheosis of American-style Formalism, it was never any more “content-less” than other art. Over the years, however, the meanings assigned this work have been subject to considerable revisioning. Michael Fried was among the first to question the neutrality of Minimalist sculpture, condemning its invasion of the viewer’s space as subversive theatricality. Rosalind Krauss viewed the deployment of highly repetitive structures as rooted in “the obsessional’s unwavering ritual,” rather than in rationality. More recently, Anna Chave fueled the escalating

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  • Jon Kessler

    Luhring Augustine | Chelsea

    Like dreams of a future already past, Jon Kessler’s art is driven by a mechanistic poetics filled with nostalgia for things yet to come. The prophecies once held fast in the machine now seem but memories, slipping easily between past and future, the present and the imagination. Kessler exposes the obsolescence of our dreams, reconstructing them within the derelict space of evacuated technologies and unrealized worlds. Sifting through the remains of the future he forces us to confront the prematurity of modern science, and with it, our homesickness for a world we have never known. Where Kessler’s

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  • Guillermo Kuitca

    Sperone Westwater

    Guillermo Kuitca had a lot riding on this exhibition—his fourth solo effort in New York in as many years. In the wake of a fairly lackluster showing at last year’s survey of Latin American art at MoMA and at Documenta the year before, as well as a decidedly unconvincing 1993 debut at his first blue-chip SoHo gallery, skeptical voices had begun to question whether he could actually deliver the goods. That Kuitca had been all but consecrated as the first young Latin American artist in decades to sustain a strong European following only fed the fires of New York skepticism, providing an easy out

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  • Hannah Collins

    Castelli Gallery | Uptown

    After she left her native London to live in Barcelona several years ago, an important change came over Hannah Collins’ work. Whereas the primary thrust of her mid-to-late-’80s photo-constructions was a sense of existential urgency, Catalonia appears to have inspired her to focus more closely on the physical aspects of her environment. Complex placements of human figures in neutral or semitheatrical spaces may have been necessary in the past, but her more recent work has suggested that a comparable degree of profundity can be located in a pile of trash gathering at the dead end of a medieval

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  • Robert Gober

    Paula Cooper Gallery | 529 West 21st Street

    Robert Gober outlined his iconography early in his career with Slides of a Changing Painting, 1982–83. To create this work, he mounted a small painting on a board and photographed it as he changed the image. The 80 slides in this project—ranging from a male torso becoming female, to doors and windows, to trees and running water, to wounds and lesions—have provided the raw material for much of the artist’s work over the last ten years.

    Gober has said, “I always thought of myself as a painter but I could never make paintings,” and as his career has progressed his sculptures, installations, and

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  • Matthew Weinstein

    Sonnabend Gallery

    There are worse ways to characterize Matthew Weinstein’s paintings than in terms of their titles. Like the Titanic—which is also the title of a 1993 work—these paintings seem to be on the verge of slipping out of sight as physical objects, that is, they represent that slippage by becoming “conceptual.”

    Tangles of lines, colors, spots—the whole formal heritage of the abstract apparatus—here possess an almost irresistible tactility with pseudovisionary potential. Are these works ships of fools—for foolish spectators—or are they transient, poetic, “slow kisses on the eyelids of the sea,” as the

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  • Katherine Bowling

    Blumhelman Gallery

    More tricky painting. It’s quite good if one likes tricks, and I do, because they seem to be (almost) all that’s left of painting. Out of a wonderful mesh of gestures Katherine Bowling builds a nest and lays her egglike flowers in them. The pseudonaturalness of the surrounding broad, green brushstrokes (slightly ominous in their darkness) supports the flurry of thinner, drippier black and white marks that, like a final act of magic, generate the nest’s aura. The painting is now more deliberate than spontaneous, in line with the Caesarian birth of the image. It is as though Bowling’s paintings

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  • Manuel Ocampo

    Annina Nosei Gallery

    Manuel Ocampo’s solo debut in New York was a vivid send-up of his native Philippines, particularly the role of the Catholic Church in a culture that has brought us, among other spectacles, Imelda’s famous shoe-filled room. The 13 relatively large paintings featured here, aptly titled “Stations of the Cross,” (all works 1994) formed a blasphemous send-up of Catholic excess, particularly the pious self-mortification practiced yearly by penitent Filipinos who reenact each of the Fourteen Stations of the Cross—including the crucifixion, nails and all.

    Although often presented within the context of

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  • Ursula von Rydingsvard

    Galerie Lelong & Co.

    Like many of Ursula von Rydingsvard’s exhibitions, this show paradoxically celebrated the monumentality of the everyday. Autobiographical in content, these new sculptures also reflect the artist’s process-oriented mode of working: her engagement with the wood’s physical qualities.

    Iconographically, these works draw on the same sources as her earlier pieces: common handmade farm tools, domestic implements, the wooden architecture of peasants’ dwellings and small country churches as mythical prototypes, and the emphatically “mechanical” concerns of Minimalism and post-Minimalism. They refer to both

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  • Petah Coyne

    Jack Shainman Gallery

    Petah Coyne’s extraordinary wax sculptures mark a departure from her earlier work, but I am not convinced (as some have been) that she has abandoned the dark for the light and embarked on a career as an optimist. True, the new works are bridal-white rather than black, and they are almost giddily festive, but they retain a strong element of the macabre. It is a change of degree only—a shift from ominous baroque to rococo inflected with Gothic revival.

    Since all the pieces are suspended from the ceiling (as we have come to expect from Coyne) and thickly encrusted with extinguished candles, they

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  • Marlene Dumas

    Jack Tilton Gallery

    Marlene Dumas’ work shows clear stylistic affinities with the ’80s neo-Expressionists—Francesco Clemente in particular—and some of her subject matter, like that of The Peeping Tom, 1994, echoes Eric Fischl’s, but her paintings are fueled neither by the idea of painting as self-indulgent masturbation (à la Clemente) nor as prurient voyeurism (as with Fischl). Rather, they evince an unashamed passion for contact, a commitment to the reality principle. This commitment distinguishes itself, however, from that of various forms of lately fashionable “content-driven” art. Such work disrespects

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  • Elaine Reichek

    The Jewish Museum

    Elaine Reichek’s “A Postcolonial Kinder-hood” was the first show in the series “Cultural Conversations” developed by the Jewish Museum to “address issues of Jewish identity.” This installation suggested, however, that the museum’s project is bound to short-circuit itself, if, as Reichek posits, contemporary Jewish identity has been reduced to anxiety over its own absence. Ever since the “emancipation” of European Jewry in the 19th century, the problem has been how to postulate an irreducible difference that, one immediately hastens to add, makes no fundamental difference at all. While the

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  • Bas Jan Ader

    Nicole Klagsbrun

    In a comic send-up of the difficulty of pinning down the ever-elusive artist, Bas Jan Ader’s 1972 series of untitled photographs depicts a simple method for capturing a plein air painter. A large crate propped open by a stick is set in an appropriately idyllic woodland grove. Baited by an attractive tea service, the painter (played by Ader) abandons his easel and creeps under the open box to take some refreshment. At this point, the hunter pulls away the stick, trapping the artist. Thus the tea party, which begins with a man and ends with a Minimalist cube is also a postcard passage from

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  • Paula Hayes

    Fawbush Gallery

    It is easy to see from Paula Hayes’ work that she’s an artist excited by nature; in fact, with her proliferating root systems, eroticized bees, ominous frosts, and suggestive phrases, it would even be easy to think that she’s sexually excited by nature. In Wish Energy (all works 1994), a sinewy house is labelled both “nice” and “haha,“ and a big arrow pointing downward at some sort of root system says “2″ hard frost.” Seemingly unconnected phrases line the individual roots: “Fucking everyone is fucking no one, take the queen jelly, oh it’s necrophilia is it!?, you know the ego is in the blood.”

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  • Laura Stein

    Basilico Fine Arts

    Comprised of an array of potted plants, large-scale photographs, and colorful botanical drawings, Laura Stein’s first solo exhibition in New York resembled an exotic garden cum experimental laboratory. Close investigation of the plants revealed that they were not examples of discrete species but complex amalgams.

    Transforming studio practices into horticultural ones, Stein grafted a branch or bud from one plant species onto the trunk of another species in the same genus to form a rooted bond out of which grew a single living organism. The titles are lexical compounds of the names of the plants

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  • Todd Watts

    Grey Art Gallery

    Todd Watts’ photographs draw on the scientific aura of the medium only to set his viewers up for a fall. Like pictures used in astronomical, meteorological, and medical applications, his elaborately constructed images have the look of the strictly evidential, and come complete with the requisite grid of crosses or dots. But rather than limiting factors and elements in order to decrease ambiguity and heighten objectivity, Watts uses the scientific frame to expose and highlight the arbitrariness and fallibility of human vision.

    Some of Watts’ most effective works are his “Dimensional Abstractions,”

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  • Laura Dean Musicians and Dancers

    Joyce Theater

    Laura Dean's mesmerizing evening of dance was proof, if proof is needed, that extraordinary talent grows in extraordinary ways. Opening with golden-costumed dancers, Sky Light, 1982, provided a précis of Dean's earliest vocabulary: the alternating heel, step, heel, step of dancers in a warm-up line (their palms facing the back wall and their elbows hinged at right angles); the dizzying, dervishlike spin of figures—solo or in formation—stirring up air like battalions of tornadoes across an unencumbered plain; and the taunting sideways bounce (knees bent, feet wide apart) of a boxer

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  • “Western Artists/African Art”

    Museum for African Art

    The “white cube” exhibition style eliminated context and focused attention on the objects, which were then supposed to enter the viewer’s field of pure sensibility completely free of associations. Recently, how­ever, the belief in such a sensibility, or in the possibility of experience without associations, has waned. Artworks, like every­ thing else, seem embedded in webs of mediation, a condition that many recent exhibitions have attempted to address.

    Curated by Daniel Shapiro, “Western Artists/African Art” presented 46 objects, mostly examples of traditional African art, from the collections

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